THEY’D been pruned right back when I visited the Angel a few weeks ago, but soon the determined vines of ivy will be once more bringing their rash of red and green to the front of this famous inn, which regularly features in lists of the very best dining pubs in the county.
Hetton is a pretty little ribbon of a village in the southern reaches of the dales just a few miles north of Skipton; close by is Rylstone, home of the WI group which spawned the incredible Calendar Girls and a thousand low-rent imitations.
The stone-fronted Angel stretches along one side of the road. Originally this was a 15th century drovers inn, where farmers would seek rest and refreshment – both for themselves and their animals. The cattle may be long gone, but half a millennium on, the Angel continues to offer valuable sustenance.
Enter by the left hand door to reach the bar, where you will find a choice of hand-pulled real ales. Like many dales village pubs, the Angel remains a freehouse but has become the de-facto brewery tap for Dark Horse Brewery, which was established just along the road by Richard and Carol Eyton-Jones in 2008. Richard already had some renowned breweries on his impressive CV – Goose Eye in Keighley and Old Mill in Snaith, St Peter’s and Old Cannon in Suffolk – before arriving here. Their flagship ales Hetton Pale (4.2%), Craven Bitter (3.8%), Night Jar (4.2%) and Blonde Beauty (3.9%) are brewed using water drawn from their own borehole.
It’s the first of these which catches my eye as we cross the threshold and though we spend an indulgent evening enjoying the delights of Pascal Watkins’ kitchens and wine cellars, it’s not before I’ve first sampled this clean-tasting, slightly sweet and peachy pale ale. It could hardly have had a more favourable introduction; its inaugural brew won the ITV series Yorkshire’s Perfect Pint not long after the brewery opened. It pours an attractive golden colour with some seductive citrus in the aroma, before the deeper substance of malt and caramel emerge in the taste of a very easy-going Yorkshire ale which continues to deliver on those uncomplicated prizewinning values.
Pascal’s food regularly garners plaudits and so it is with rising anticipation that we take our places in his beautiful, intimate restaurant.
He’s managed to shoe-horn several of my favourite foods into a single starter – the crisply-coated black pudding Scotch egg served on a bed of spinach – while my partner plumps for the scallops served attractively in butter-soaked shells.
The standard set by those main courses is maintained in my devilishly spicy crusted hake satay and my partner’s Thai curry swamp of sweet potato, aubergine, lentils and butternut squash. The Frunza Pinot Noir, from Romania no less, proves a perfect juicy, red-berry accompaniment, both for these and for the chunky board of Yorkshire cheeses which follows.
There’s more. Just this once we are treating ourselves to a night away, so from the restaurant it is only a moderate stagger to the accommodation block across the road. The attention which Pascal and his staff pay to their guests is painstaking; they even bring canapes up to the room before dinner. I could easily become accustomed to this decadent lifestyle, but apparently I am not allowed.
Host: Pascal Watkins
Beers: Changing choice of hand-pulled real ales including from Dark Horse Brewery nearby
Wines: Phenomenal wine list is among the very best in the county
Food: Top quality restaurant dining served noon-2.15pm daily (2.30pm Sun) and 6-8.30pm daily (9.30pm Fri and Sat)
Entertainment: Occasional themed events
Accommodation: Nine letting bedrooms
Beer garden: Roadside terrace to the front
Children: Welcomed – but no special facilities
Disabled: Straightforward access
Parking: Car park opposite, plus some on-street space
Telephone: 01756 730263